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August 04, 2006

Happy 4/8/6

In 1996 I pulled the motherboard out of my former-286 and replaced it with a 486SX handed down by my friend Matt. He sold it to me for $50, the cost of the 4MB of RAM. I don't remember how fast it ran, but it was something like 33MHz. Very speedy: the DOS DIR command generated output faster than I could possibly read it.

This machine ran DOS 6.2, Windows 3.1 and clocked a lot of WordPerfect time. There was no need for communications programs since I lived in far western Minnesota, out of range of BBSs or internet.

The important software, though, was Linux. I'd met a local ham who'd moved back to Montevideo, Minnesota after spending many years in the real world. He was shocked that anyone in Nowheresville Minnesota had ever heard of Linux, and invited me to come over to his workshop to discuss radios and computers. He dug around and found an extra 4MB of RAM to bring my system up to a full 8MB to run X, and gave me my first multi-CD multi-distribution Infomagic set with Red Hat 2, Slackware 1.something, an old Debian and the sunsite archives. Great stuff.

Over the next week I spent numerous hours trying to figure out how to install Slackware on my system. Partitioning the hard drive was simple. The hard part was figuring out and manually performing a lot of tasks which are done automatically now. It was a serious learning experience, and it was a dream come true when I finally booted to the Slackware login prompt.

I made the 45 mile trip to the nearest bookstore in Marshall, Minnesota and bought the only Linux book to be found in that part of the state: the second edition of Running Linux. I finally had a chance to check out Unix, and it was a whole new world: fun and full of new things to learn. Ten years later I'm a Perl programmer who uses Linux every day, thanks to that little 486SX and that set of Linux CDs (which still have a place of honor on my CD rack).

Permalink | Posted by Joe at August 4, 2006 01:52 PM


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